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House Republican Delegation chairman Blake Miguez, R-Erath, speaks committee, May 6, 2020.

With veto-proof majorities, the Louisiana House Friday approved three gun rights bills – two would limit local governments from banning the concealed carrying of firearms and the sale of weapons during an emergency; the third would allow guns into churches regardless of what congregants decide.

Thibodaux Republican Rep. Bryan Fontenot, a former a Thibodaux police officer and justice of the peace, said recent rash of church shootings – the latest taking place in Texas four days after Christmas 2019 – is reason enough to expand the ability to carry guns into a place of worship.

"It's a sad day when we have to have a discussion about how we protect ourselves when we bow our head," said Fontenot, who sponsored House Bill 334.

He argued that pastors still would have to grant permission.

State Rep. Joe Marino, No Party-Gretna and criminal defense lawyer, disagreed. The language of the measure repeals “in their entirety” the sections of state law that now details the conditions in which someone is allowed to carry concealed weapons into a church, synagogue, or masque the section of state – including authorization by “the pastor, priest, minister or other authority,” who then must inform the congregation. The legal conditions lifted also include requirements for an “additional eight hours of tactical training” for anyone authorized to carry a concealed weapon into a place of worship. 

Federal law prohibits carrying weapons into parochial schools, which are often attached to churches, and has some provisions that also cover places of worship.

HB334 was approved on a vote of 71-24.

All three measures now head to the Senate where they will have to be heard and approved by a committee, then survive a vote of the full upper chamber during the session’s remaining 10 days seven days before heading to the governor’s desk.

It takes to 70 votes in the House (26 in the Senate) to override a gubernatorial veto should Gov. John Bel Edwards do so. Numerically, the votes on all three measures appear to make an override is possible. But sometimes the politics change and votes change.

House Bill 140 by Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, would negate dozens of local ordinances passed by communities – including Baton Rouge, Mandeville and Kenner -- that limit carrying firearms into playgrounds, water parks, public parks, public buildings and commercial establishments where families and children visit. Local governments would be restricted to banning concealed firearms from institutions already listed in state law, such as prisons, airports, schools, courthouses, and the State Capitol.

Miguez argued that allowing 367 local jurisdictions to make their own rules puts “law abiding citizens” in the position of unwittingly breaking the law simply by crossing city boundaries. HB140 would give uniformity across the state and supports the constitutional rights of Louisiana residents, he said.

“We have to weigh those rights against the small inconveniences” to local authorities, Miguez said.

Miguez amended the legislation to align with current state law that forbids carrying a weapon into several types of buildings. But local governments could not ban concealed handguns from places like gyms, parks and businesses that are not covered under state or federal law.

HB140 passed 70-28.

The chamber then approved on 80-17 vote House Bill 781, also sponsored by Miguez, that prevents local governments and local law enforcement from banning sales of firearms and ammunition during a declared emergency. He said federal law already limits those sales.

Voting to expand carry weapons to church (71): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps , Amedee, Bacala, Bagley, Beaullieu, Bishop, Bourriaque, Brown, Butler, Carrier, R. Carter, W. Carter, Cormier, Coussan, Crews, Davis, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Dwight, Echols, Edmonds, Edmonston, Emerson, Farnum, Firment, Fontenot, Freiberg, Frieman, Gadberry, Garofalo, Goudeau, Harris, Henry, Hilferty, Hodges, Horton, Huval, Ivey, M. Johnson, T. Johnson, Kerner, LaCombe, Mack, Magee, McCormick, McFarland, McKnight, McMahen, Miguez, Miller, D., Miller, G., Mincey, Muscarello, Nelson, C.Owen, R. Owen, Pressly, Riser, Romero, Schamerhorn, Seabaugh, Stefanski, Tarver, Thomas, Thompson, Turner, Villio, Wheat, White, Wright and Zeringue.

Voting against HB334 (24): Reps Adams, Brass, Bryant, Carpenter, G. Carter, Cox, Duplessis, Freeman, Gaines, Green, Hughes, Jefferson, Jenkins, Jordan, Landry, Larvadain, Marino, Moore, Newell, Phelps, Pierre, Selders, Stagni and Willard.

Not Voting (8): Reps Glover, Hollis, Illg, James, Jones, Lyons, Marcelle, and St. Blanc.

Voting to limit local government from banning firearms (70): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps Adams, Amedee, Bacala, Bagley, Beaullieu, Bishop, Bourriaque, Brown, Butler, Carrier, Cormier, Coussan, Crews, Davis, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Dwight, Echols, Edmonds, Edmonston, Emerson, Farnum, Firment, Fontenot, Freiberg, Frieman, Gadberry, Garofalo, Goudeau, Harris, Henry, Hodges, Horton, Huval, Illg, Ivey, M. Johnson, T. Johnson, Kerner, LaCombe, Mack, Magee, McCormick, McFarland, McKnight, McMahen, Miguez, G. Miller, Mincey, Muscarello, Nelson, C. Owen, R. Owen, Pressly, Riser, Romero, Schamerhorn, Seabaugh, St. Blanc, Stefanski, Tarver, Thomas, Thompson, Turner, Villio, Wheat, Wright and Zeringue.

Voting against HB140 (28): Reps Brass, , Bryant, Carpenter, G. Carter, R. Carter, W. Carter, Cox, Duplessis, Freeman, Gaines, Green, Hughes, Jefferson, Jenkins, Jones, Jordan, Landry, Larvadain, Lyons, Marino, D. Miller, Moore, Newell, Phelps, Pierre, Selders, Stagni and Willard.

Not Voting (6): Reps Glover, Hilferty, Hollis, James, Marcelle, and White.

Voting to limit ordinances on gun sales during emergency (80): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps., Adams, Amedee, Bacala, Bagley, Beaullieu, Bishop, Bourriaque, Brown, Butler, Carter, R., Cormier, Coussan, Cox, Crews, Davis, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Dwight, Echols, Edmonds, Edmonston, Emerson, Farnum, Firment, Fontenot, Frieman, Gadberry, Gaines, Garofalo, Goudeau, Harris, Henry, Hilferty, Hodges, Horton, Huval, Illg, Ivey, Jefferson, Jenkins, M. Johnson, T. Johnson, Jordan, LaCombe, Lyons, Mack, Magee, Marino, McCormick, McFarland, McKnight, McMahen, Miguez, D. Miller, G. Miller, Mincey, Moore, Muscarello, Nelson, C. Owen, R. Owen, Pressly, Riser, Romero, Schamerhorn, Seabaugh, St. Blanc, Stagni, Stefanski, Tarver, Thomas, Thompson, Turner, Villio, Wheat, White, Wright and Zeringue.

Voting against HB781 (17): Reps Brass, Bryant, Carpenter, G. Carter, W. Carter, Duplessis, Freeman, Green, Hughes, Landry, Larvadain, Marcelle, Newell, Phelps, Pierre, Selders and Willard.

Not Voting (7): Reps , Carrier, Freiberg, Glover, Hollis, James, Jones and Kerner.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.